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Finals-bound TWolves end Lindhursts 25-game win streak
SB--Lindhurst-Sierra pic 2
Kendelle Messersmiths beats the throw to Lindhurst third baseman Dustyne Steele during Sierras three-run seventh inning rally Friday at Arnaiz Stadium. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

STOCKTON — Sierra lost three NCAA Division I scholarship players to graduation over the past two years, while Nick Olmo stepped down as the winningest coach in program history.

For as much as they’ve lost, the Timberwolves just keep on winning.

First-year head coach Vic DeAnda, who never believed this to be a rebuilding season, has led Sierra back to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV finals with Friday’s 5-1 win over Lindhurst at Arnaiz Stadium.

The second-seeded Blazers from Olivehurst — who had a 25-game winning streak snapped — earned a shot at redemption after edging Case Roble 6-5 in nine innings in the consolation semifinal. Sierra (19-5) seeks its third section title in five years after wining in 2011 and 13. Lindhurst needs to win twice today to capture its first SJS banner. The final round begins at noon followed by the “if” game at 2 p.m.

“Unbelievable, isn’t it?” said DeAnda, who served as Olmo’s assistant for seven years. “At the beginning of the year I don’t think anybody gave us this chance. And then to come this far, it all has to do with the girls. They believed in each other and never got down.”

The Timberwolves are on roll heading into their last day of the season. They blanked Union Mine 5-0 in the opening round Thursday before taking down No. 1-seeded Vista del Lago, 10-2.

Seeded fifth, Sierra players are carrying a chip on their shoulders. The Valley Oak League’s third-place team feels it has the goods to compete in the loaded Division III bracket along with intra-city rival East Union, but its school enrollment knocked it down to D-IV.

“We were the underdogs going into this,” junior center fielder Devi Coglio said. “A lot of people didn’t believe in us and being the fifth seed just made it worst. I thought we deserved to be ranked higher.”

If there were any doubters, they’ve been proven wrong thus far.

The Timberwolves continued their offensive hot streak. They knocked Breanna Swint (nine strikeouts) around for nine hits, four of which went for doubles by Kendelle Messersmith, Julianna DeAnda (2 for 4), Tayler Moss (2 for 4, RBI, run) and Legacy Barnes. DeAnda also had a two-RBI single that punctuated Sierra’s backbreaking three-run seventh inning.

Coglio went 3 for 3 and plated two runs and drove in another from the top of the order. She led off the contest with a single to right, and Messersmith doubled her home.

“We told (Coglio) at the beginning of the year it all comes down to her,” DeAnda said. “When she gets on base we’re scoring. She’s the spark for this team.”

Freshman Lindsey Walljasper was once again spectacular in the pitcher’s circle for Sierra. She started the contest with three straight strikeouts and finished with nine in a four-hitter. But it was her escape act in the bottom of the sixth that was most impressive.

Trailing 2-0, Lindhurst had an opportunity to put up a crooked number with Kaylie Wofford (walked) and Teja Butler (singled) on base with no outs. No. 3 batter Keianna Hostetler followed with an RBI single, and she advanced to second to put runners in scoring position.

Walljasper struck out the next three batters in order to swing the momentum back in Sierra’s favor.

“I knew I had to come through because I’m the one who put us in the jam,” Walljasper said. “I just had to find a way to get out of it.”

Sierra is familiar with a Walljasper making big pitches. Lindsey’s older sister, Allie, now starring at LSU as a true freshman, was the Timberwolves’ ace the past four years and a four-time Manteca Bulletin  All-Area MVP.

“My freshman year we went to the finals and won it with Allie,” Coglio said. “If we can do it again with her little sister in her freshman year that would be great.”